I was doing a bit of email clean-up and, while looking through my SPAM inbox, saw that my email filter has designated a message from a local business “SPAM”. Here’s the interesting thing – I don’t really want the email, and don’t have a particular interest in reading it, but it’s not, by my definition of the word, SPAM. I’m not even sure that I specifically subscribed to it. But, it’s not offensive, and, most importantly, I can “opt out” if I want to.
The Original SPAM
Let’s start by getting that old stand-by out of the way. The original SPAM was first marketed in 1937. We all know SPAM, the quintessential lunchmeat of our childhood (or at least my childhood!). It’s interesting that the name was first coined as a shortened form of “SPiced hAM”. The distinct spices are what set SPAM apart from it’s competitors in the old days. During World War II, more than 100 million pounds of SPAM was shipped to troops abroad.
In the modern world of internet and email, we know SPAM as something else. In a nod to the old counterpart, the word SPAM was developed as an acronym for “Stupid, Pointless Annoying Message”. It has become part of our on-line language and everyone knows, or thinks they know, what SPAM, as an email, is. Email delivery has become more sophisticated today. Email that is delivered through any of the many larger email service companies out there such as Constant Contact or Vertical Response always offers an “opt out” or “unsubscribe” option.
This is not like the “unsubscribe” option of the old days, where, reportedly, by “unsubscribing”, one essentially told someone on the other end that your email address was “good”, opening you for more of the same junk emails. Today, you are literally prevented from ever receiving anything from that company through that email provider again.
There are several organizations in place that help to protect against SPAM today. The rules set out by FTC and the CAN SPAM ACT help to prevent much of what we used to see in our email boxes. That, combined with more robust filters installed by our email server providers for SPAM-type email, means that truly unwanted email – ads for pills, offers from Nigeria, and other unsavory things – don’t make it through, or at least end up in your SPAM inbox.
Spam and Etiquette
So, what if you get an email that you don’t want or don’t think you asked for, or just don’t know how you happen to be getting it?
What if it’s from a legitimate source – one that is providing you with an “opt out” or “unsubscribe” option? Is it spam, or just something to which you would like to say “no thank you”? Before you freak out, just click the “unsubscribe” line and opt out. It’s okay and no one will hate you for it.
Let’s face it, even if you don’t think you asked for it, or even if you are sure you did not, good companies just want to reach out and touch you. They don’t mean any harm and they give you a real option not to hear from them in the future.
There’s been a lot said about etiquette on the web these days, and simply calling everything that you don’t want “SPAM” falls under the purview of poor manners. If you have an option to “unsubscribe”, please do that. It’s the polite thing to do. It’s also safe to do nowadays, if given the option.
So, let’s call a SPAM a SPAM, and only hit the SPAM button if it really is unwanted and uncalled for mail (or a kind of lunchmeat).